Tools for Living Successfully with Hearing Loss Transcript
Monique Hammond: When we say somebody has hearing loss, then the technology immediately gets brought into it. But there is also the skillful daily living.
Male narrator: Many forms of hearing loss can be improved using strategies, like getting someone’s attention before speaking, turning off background noises, facing each other while talking, that improve communication more than any technology and cost nothing at all.
Monique: Hearing loss is one of those things that we have to, at some point in time, accept, and we have to incorporate it into our daily lives.
Dr. Frank R. Lin: Just basic communicative strategies - can solve 95% of the problems.
Monique: For instance, how to initiate a conversation, how to keep a conversation going. We have to have direct line of sight. And that’s one of the first things that I learned. If you’re out of sight, you’re basically out of earshot, because people with hearing loss look at a person. They look at the movement of the lips. They look at the whole countenance. They look if what they hear and what they see kind of coordinates. It gives them a whole picture. Then there is also the fact that we have to have people speak-- not in a loud voice. Screaming, actually, is totally counterproductive.
Laura Waterman Wittstock: My family and my friends have learned to talk to me a little bit louder. I find that I resent shouting.
Liliana Marin: Yelling across the room doesn’t work anymore. Or if I’m downstairs yelling up and having her toss me something down the stairs, that doesn’t work anymore. So I just make sure that I’m in the same room. If she doesn’t hear me, I’ll ask if she has her hearing aids in, and if she doesn’t, then I’ll move closer and make sure that I’m looking directly at her.
Laura: It actually hurts my ears if somebody shouts at me, because it is too loud. In some ways, it is not the level of sound, as much as it is the clarity of the speaking.
Monique: And so we have people-- Usually we tell them to speak in a normal voice, but to annunciate better, you know? And when we try to annunciate our words a little bit better, immediately that has a tendency to slow down the conversation a bit, which is a huge advantage for people who are trying to listen and to hear.
Kathleen Marin: I would recommend going and getting your hearing evaluated, looking into the different technologies. And there are lots of technologies.
Dr. Lin: A lot of people--they don’t want a formal-fit hearing aid. They just want a simple device they can use with their phone, like a simple over-the-counter device called a Pocket Talker, which looks a little bit like a Walkman with a pair of headphones, and in which the sound output can be far better than a $4,000 pair of hearing aids.
Narrator: There’s also a whole host of products that don’t rely on sound at all-- alarm clocks and fire alarms that vibrate your bed, as well as kitchen appliances and doorbells that blink and flash.
Monique: There is technology, and I believe that when people go for hearing help, that they actually should be instructed on all of this.
Kathleen: Once I got used to the hearing aids, and they’re a challenge to get used to sometimes, life is so much better.
Narrator: Hearing aids are actually like prescription eyeglasses. They need to be programmed by an audiologist to match your specific hearing loss.
Audiologist Kerry Witherell: Most people have hearing loss from age. It slowly changed over time. Wearing a hearing aid is just that--it’s an aid. It helps improve what hearing they have, helps them pick up on some of the things that they’re missing.
Katherine Bouton - The fact is that hearing aids these days are small, invisible. They work really well for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, and they can make an enormous difference in how you go about your daily life. Hearing aids these days can easily cost up to $4,000 for a single hearing aid, and since most hearing loss is from noise or aging, it tends to be bilateral, in both ears, so that means you need two hearing aids at $4,000 apiece.
Narrator: Hearables, or personal sound amplification products, are often confused with hearing aids, but are actually over-the-counter solutions. Their quality really varies. After all, they are usually once size fits all. But they are much more affordable, and many people find them helpful.
Dr. Lin: There’s clearly--Hearing loss comes on slowly over time, so you don’t necessarily need everything all at once. If I noticed I was beginning to struggle a little bit, usually in, let’s say, group conversations and busy outings-- is that increasingly there a are whole array, some better than others, of what I’ll call "consumer electronics" or what people call "Personal Sound Amplifying Products," PSAPs. Basically commercial, consumer-grade technology which don’t advertise to treat hearing loss, because if you do that, then it becomes FDA-regulated, and then you can’t even sell it over the counter anymore. But these consumer-grade devices which allow you to hear in certain challenging situations. And I’ll give an example. There are a few companies now which make a devices now which look like little ear buds. They go into your ear, they have a little neon glow to them. They have a built-in MP3 player. They work as a Bluetooth headset for your phone. And, oh, yeah, by the way, they can also amplify sound, right? So is that a hearing aid, or is that a lifestyle device? You realize there’s a lot of convergence between the two nowadays.
Katherine: People are beginning to realize that accommodations for people with hearing loss are as important as accommodations for people in wheelchairs.
Narrator: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, public venues, like theaters and lecture halls, are required to provide assistive listening devices. And if they have a hearing loop, it can transmit sound wirelessly to the T-coil in your hardware without the need to request additional equipment.
Christine Morgan: So I walk into a meeting, and there’s looping. Well, I had never turned on my T-coil in six years because no place was looped.
Katherine: Especially the big movie chains to have either captioning devices in their theaters or induction loops in their theaters so that people with hearing loss can go hear a movie and don’t have to limit themselves to foreign moves with captions. Hearing loss is, you know, a major category in the kinds of access that the ADA requires. It’s not, up until this point, always been followed, but I think more and more it is.
Dr. Lin: It’s a spectrum of care, right? This is not all or none, right? It’s that you add in technology depending on where your level of hearing loss is and in terms of how complex it is and in terms of how much care you need.